Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

A Short Story

The spirit is willing but...

By Helena Adu-Stanhope

England is a beautiful place. Summer time is pleasant and I wish winter never comes. I have been relaxing in a chair in the garden of my dad's cottage. Really, it's a pleasant house with a beautiful view over the lakes and the landscape, as I see it far away, has a touching beauty to it. My dad has lived here for perhaps thirty years since he came to settle here from Africa. As I sit here enjoying the fresh strong air, I keep thinking about Tom and about the past two years of my life.

Helena Lowey, that's my name, That has been my full name for two years now. Now I have to revert to my dad's name once more, to use that combination of African-English hyphenated mouthful of a name.

Sometimes I think I have been a fox. Really, I shiver and struggle with my conscience when I recall the messages of love and the numerous phone calls by which Tom and I swore dedicated unalloyed love to each other. I always feel like cracking up when I see the signpost of the Jem Night Club where we had moments of good times until things started going wrong.

Thomas Lowey is the ambitious young man who has left me in this wretched state. I have sworn never to get drunk with love again. And I have Sworn again to stay put, like a nun to her vow. I mean to stay clear of men. white men like Thomas, especially.

I recall one Friday evening in particular. I had sat home all evening waiting for Tom. He had only an hour's lecture to go through and I was happy that, at least, for once in the last month we will be together; two of us to Ourselves. Being a full-time salesman and a part-time student he hardly had time for me.

After endless waiting the phone rang. With trembling hands and an Oscillating heart I picked up the phone.

"Hello Helena. Sorry, I won't be able to get home early tonight," his voice sounded less clear on the line. "The lecturer is travelling abroad next week and all his lectures have been re- scheduled for tonight, he added.

"But Tom, you know today is my twentieth birthday and we haven't " gone out together for a very long time," I told him.

"I know darling," he sounded genuinely apologetic. "I wish I could help it but really I can't. I've come too far to miss the lectures. Please bear with me, darling," he said and the phone went dead.

I was bitter and terribly disappointed. Slowly, I put down the telephone and wiped the flood of tears cascading down my cheeks. I was like a vicar staring at empty pews on a Good Friday morning, without confidence in myself.

I picked up the phone again and dialled three numbers. I drew blank on all three. I was becoming jittery and confused. I dialled a fourth number. My luck held and my pal Jenny came on the line.

"That night I left Tom after the bitterest row I ever had in my life. I went back to my pal Jenny's and from there to my Dad's cottage the next day. Six months later Tom and I were divorced..."

"It's me, Helen. You don't mind me breaking in on you like this?"

"No, not at all Helen," replied Jenny on the line. I felt a bit relieved. I gave her the gist of my conversation with Tom and my bitterness. She consoled me and urged me to calm down. Finally she invited me over to her flat to make up for what would have been a most disappointing evening.

It was about twelve midnight when I returned home. I knew Tom would be home so I was not surprised when I found the front door half closed. What I saw inside caused my blood to freeze in my veins. There was Tom in my own living room tightly locked in the embrace of another woman right there on the sofa. Tom was so absorbed in her closeness that he failed to realize I had stumbled on his love act.

"Oh my God, it's you Tom!" was all I managed to say. Of course I knew it was Tom but what else could I say? "I think you better leave this place young woman" I said angrily, and slapped the white and pinky face of the woman.

"Leave her alone!" Tom snapped at me and that said it all. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. So Tom was on her side. I knew I could not win.

That night I left Tom after the bitterest row I ever had in my life. I went back to my pal Jenny's and from there to my Dad's cottage the next day. Six months later Tom and I were divorced and I resolved never to fall in love again.

After sitting in the garden for hours thinking about the past that was nothing but painful and bitter, I decided to go out on my own for a change.

I reached the Afro-Carribean Social Centre eventually and made my way to the big hall where there was some sort of lecture going on. The hall was filled to capacity and finding an empty seat wasn't easy. Finally, I found one beside a young man who was too engrossed in the talk to notice me sit down. In fact, he didn't notice me for quite some time. But I eyed him all the same, really. He appeared good looking and rather dignified. Once or twice he sneaked a glance at me which I ignored deliberately.

Time for coffee came as a relief. The young man drifted towards me and I could not believe he was such an avid conversationalist. In that brief interval of time we had a lot to tell each other, especially of his home in West Africa, the culture I had lost through no fault of mine, and of his travels abroad.

After the second part of the lecture he invited me to dinner. I wanted very much to refuse since my private vow was still fresh in my mind. However the night was still young and I consented. It was a relaxed evening by all accounts and I found my companion Phillip Kodah to be an amiable gentleman and a good entertainer. Over and over again I reminded myself of the terrible times I have had in life and resolved against the odds not to get hooked again.

The spirit, however, was willing, but the flesh was so tender and so weak that I was not surprised when the inevitable happened. I was going to have a baby, Phillip's baby. He was delighted, kind-hearted and very comforting and I knew that I had not yielded to the whim of a bad choice. We made plans to get married after the baby was born and then we would go back to West Africa, he to his people, I to my new family and to return to the land of my forefathers.

talking drums 1985-08-12 Ghana's former vice-president speaks from exile